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Foggy Mountain Shop changes hands after 40 years

The new owners have worked in the store for years

Posted: January 28, 2014 - 1:04am
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Sean Rielly and Courtney Nicholl are the new owners of the Foggy Mountain Shop on North Franklin Street. Both have been employees at the shop for years.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Sean Rielly and Courtney Nicholl are the new owners of the Foggy Mountain Shop on North Franklin Street. Both have been employees at the shop for years.

Like many Juneau transplants, what Courtney Nicholl thought was just her summertime location turned into her permanent home. For years, Nicholl did seasonal tourism work in Juneau, hoping she’d one day get to stay. She never anticipated her favorite place to spend her paychecks would someday fall under her leadership.

“For years I had a Foggy Mountain list on my fridge,” Nicholl said, laughing. “I would come in and loiter and shop for hats because that’s all I could afford.”

“Now you have it all,” replied Foggy Mountain Shop founder Betsy Fischer.

Nicholl and Sean Rielly are the new owners of the downtown shop, opened in 1974 by Fischer. Her husband, Scott, later came on as a partner. The outdoor equipment shop has been in its Franklin Street location since 1989.

Rielly has lived in Juneau for 16 years and has worked at Foggy Mountain full time for 11, he said. Nicholl has been a permanent resident for five years and has worked in the shop full time just as long, she said. The plan to purchase the store from the Fischers has been in the works for a year, and finally took effect Monday morning.

“I’m not sure it’s fully set in yet,” Nicholl said.

Although the two don’t have business experience outside of working in the shop, they decided to take the plunge and become owners, training with the Fischers on everything from purchasing and bookkeeping to community relations. The pair wanted to take charge because of their “personal investment” in the success of the store, Rielly said.

“I figured if someone else bought it and we started working for them, it wouldn’t feel right,” he said.

Betsy Fischer said she was unsure at first when Rielly and Nicholl said they wanted to take over. They’re both very young, she said.

“(Scott and I) looked at each other like, ‘Yeah, right,’” Betsy Fischer said. “But they did it. They really worked well together.”

With the help of Ian Grant at the Alaska Small Business Development Center, the two owners-to-be applied for loans and went through all the necessary paperwork. They learned the ropes from their employers. Now, Betsy Fischer said, she’s ready to pass the torch.

“They’ve got the energy, they’ve got the passion, they’ve got the know-how,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what new things they come up with.”

Betsy Fischer said she and Scott are staying in Juneau now that they’ve sold the shop, doing “whatever we want” with their free time. They’re expecting a grandchild soon.

Scott Fischer said they’ll miss their loyal local customers, “the (shop’s) bread and butter throughout the year,” but the Fischers think the Foggy Mountain Shop will be in good hands with Rielly and Nicholl.

“They’ve got our philosophy and I think they’re excited to develop their own,” Scott Fischer said.

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.

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